March 2, 2017

And the shit storm surrounding Jeff Sessions continues. Vox summarizes the situation best, so I’ve included an excerpt from an article published today:

“Attorney General Jeff Sessions, under oath at his confirmation hearing, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he didn’t communicate with Russians during the 2016 campaign. But a new report by Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima, and Greg Miller for the Washington Post found that Sessions did speak with the Russian ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.

Justice Department officials told the Post that Sessions, in fact, spoke twice with Kislyak, including, the Post reported, “at the height of what U.S. intelligence officials say was a Russian cyber campaign to upend the U.S. presidential race.”

“There was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” Sessions spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores said. “Last year, the senator had over 25 conversations with foreign ambassadors as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, including the British, Korean, Japanese, Polish, Indian, Chinese, Canadian, Australian, German and Russian ambassadors. He was asked during the hearing about communications between Russia and the Trump campaign — not about meetings he took as a senator and a member of the Armed Services Committee.”

Sessions, for his part, made a similar argument in his statement: “I never met with any Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign. I have no idea what this allegation is about. It is false.” 

Sessions seems to misunderstand the allegations in his statement. It’s not whether he met with Russian officials to discuss issues of the campaign, but whether he spoke with them in any capacity despite telling Congress he had no communications with Russians. His spokesperson’s statement and his own statement only deny that he spoke with Russian officials as a campaign surrogate, but he still apparently communicated with a Russian official as a senator.

The Post report suggests that Sessions’s contact with Kislyak, even as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time, was unusual. Among the 20 (of 26) members of the committee who responded to the Post, none of them met with Russia’s ambassador last year.”

Where to even begin? The events of today unfolded so quickly. I would like to put together a timeline, but everything is so jumbled that I’m having a hard time figuring out who said what first (I blame Twitter.) So here’s what I’ve gleaned so far: the noise started coming loudly from the Democrats, starting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer who both called for Jeff Sessions to resign. Al Franken quipped that the Russian ambassador is Russian (apparently Al Franken wrote jokes for SNL? Is that to be believed? Can that be corroborated?) A slew of Democrats started calling for a wide range of action, including but not limited to: resignations, probes, drone strikes, a total re-do on the election with Joe Biden running as the Democratic candidate. (Can you spot one truth and the three lies?)

The real kicker came this morning, though, when Jason Chaffetz, the Chairman of the House  Oversight and Government Reform Committee tweeted that Jeff Sessions needed to explain what the heck was going on and then recuse himself from the investigation. This is the same Jason Chaffetz (in case people mix up him up with another Jason Chaffetz) who refused to take any action against the Trump-Russia allegations except to catch the leakers and bring them to sweet, swift justice. Another bunch of Republicans fell in line, while simultaneously discovering that they were indeed members of the subphylum Vertebrata, and therefore have a spine. (Every time I write a spine joke I think it’s funnier than the last one. Hopefully I can’t overuse this joke, because I have no other PG13 analogies for the state of the Republicans’ collective gumption.) (Though the king of the Invertebrates himself aka Paul Ryan said that the Democrats were “lighting their hair on fire” over Sessions and that he saw no reason for Sessions to recuse himself. Honestly, Paul Ryan, the Pride of Janesville, I can’t even…I have no words).

Trump, though, said he has total faith in Jeff Sessions and he should not recuse himself from the investigation: “Jeff Sessions is an honest man. He did not say anything wrong. He could have stated his response more accurately, but it was clearly not intentional. This whole narrative is a way of saving face for Democrats losing an election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. The Democrats are overplaying their hand. They lost the election and now, they have lost their grip on reality. The real story is all of the illegal leaks of classified and other information. It is a total witch hunt!” Apparently,

This afternoon, Jeff Sessions said in a press conference: “I have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way relating to the campaigns for President of the United States.” So, for now, Jeff Sessions has recused himself, but an ethics lawyer from the Bush Administration spoke with Vox and said that Sessions could be in serious trouble.

I am assuming that more will come to light, but this feels bigger than The New York Times story that broke two weeks ago because there is a person involved, rather than vague allegations about “senior aides.” However, we still do not know what Jeff Sessions and the Russian ambassador discussed, but Jeff Sessions claims that he does not remember what he said. I find that hard to believe: you meet with a Russian ambassador only twice and you can’t remember the general theme of your conversation? It’s far more difficult to remember each conversation I’ve had with my mother in the last year, but I do recall meetings I’ve had with people when I’ve only seen them once or twice. Anyways, that’s just me extrapolating, but I still am skeptical. I am even more skeptical that both Michael Flynn and Jeff Sessions spoke with the same Russian ambassador and Trump didn’t know. That means each person is acting individually, but I have to believe Trump knew.

A quick note about my speculation: Speculating is not very journalistic of me, but that’s not the point of this blog. I want to dump out of my feelings of confusion, anger, frustration, hysteria, etc. because I have nowhere else to put them and I am pretty sure my family and friends are tired of my talking about politics. So, I say to myself, (in the voice of Ms. Frizzle): “TAKE CHANCES, MAKE MISTAKES, GET SPECULATING!”

P.S. I know that my image of Jeff Sessions is actually Kate McKinnon–thanks Kate!

 

Sources:

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/timeline-jeff-sessions-connections-russian-ambassador/story?id=45855918

https://www.buzzfeed.com/claudiakoerner/attorney-general-sessions-told-congress-he-had-no-contact-wi?utm_term=.hf81lVGwj#.lxnJoPNnK

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/top-gop-lawmaker-calls-on-sessions-to-recuse-himself-from-russia-investigation/2017/03/02/148c07ac-ff46-11e6-8ebe-6e0dbe4f2bca_story.html?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_gopreax-840a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.20f1d05473b8

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/02/us/politics/jeff-sessions-russia-trump-investigation-democrats.html

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/1/14786100/jeff-sessions-russia-trump

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/03/02/al-franken-reminds-jeff-sessions-the-ambassador-from-russia-is-a-russian/?utm_term=.bedae8b20a5b

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/2/14791108/bush-ethics-lawyer-trumps-russia-scandal

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/02/us/politics/jeff-sessions-russia-trump-investigation-democrats.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=span-ab-top-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

http://www.businessinsider.com/paul-ryan-responds-to-accusations-jeff-sessions-lied-to-congress-2017-3

Image credit:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kate-mckinnon-as-jeff-sessions_us_589fea5be4b0ab2d2b15b4c8

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